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Journal Entry: Remembering the First World War

William Golding kept a journal from 1971 until his death in 1993. The journals are unpublished.

16 October 1979

We have driven all day through the scenes of World War I. The names have a horrible familiarity. Every so often there is a monument to this people or that. Notices tell you that such and such a cemetery is so many hundreds of metres away. Every now and then you see high hedges drawn closely round a square of land as if what was inside was precious or obscene, or both.

Twice from a rise we caught sight of major British cemeteries, near, I think, Bethune. My mind made no comment on the first, except that there was a very large number of small grey stones. But a few minutes later and the grey stones marshalled themselves again beyond a hedge, and this time, it seemed to the horizon. Without any volition or thought on my part, and astonishingly, two large tears dropped out of my eyes.

All extracts from William Golding’s journals are owned by William Golding Ltd and no part of them can be reproduced without permission.

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